A security person stands in front of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine, Sept. 11 (Photo: AFP)
UKRAINE: Ukraine and Russia have expressed interest in a proposal put forward by the U.N. nuclear watchdog to create a protection zone around the Russia-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, its chief Rafael Grossi said.
Both countries are engaging with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and asking many questions about the idea, which is aimed at preventing military activities, such as shelling that has damaged the plant’s power lines and jeopardized its security, Grossi told a news conference in Vienna on September 12.
Russia seized control of the nuclear power plant shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his country’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Grossi’s comments come a day after Enerhoatom, the Ukrainian state enterprise that is responsible for the plant, said its last working reactor had been shut down as a safety precaution.
The IAEA said a backup power line to the plant had been restored, providing the external electricity it needed to carry out the shutdown while defending against the risk of a meltdown.
On September 7, Ukrainian authorities urged residents in areas around the plant controlled by invading Russian forces to evacuate for their own safety.
French President Emmanuel Macron told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call on September 11 that the plant’s occupation by Russian troops was the reason why its security has been compromised, the French presidency said. Putin blamed Ukrainian forces, according to a Kremlin statement.
Fighting around the plant, Europe’s largest nuclear station, has raised fears of a potential nuclear disaster.
Russia has accused Ukraine of attempting to recapture the plant by force, allegations Kyiv denies.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of deploying heavy weaponry at the site, knowing that Ukraine likely would not fire on it. Moscow denies those allegations but has resisted efforts to demilitarize the area in order to avert an environmental catastrophe.